We were met by Peter Haarhoff of Cape Photo Tours at our hotel just before 6 am. We had been in contact by email since making the booking so we knew what the itinerary for the day was going to be. Hopefully the weather would cooperate and we would get the photos we needed. After a brief introduction he informed us he wanted to try something fun on the way to our first location. We would set our cameras up in his van and try to capture street lights as we drove. We’d set our cameras to long exposure times and see what patterns and trails we would get with street lights and car lights. Some worked better than others given the winding road and sometimes lack of lights going in one direction.
We arrived at St James Beach just before sunrise as we wanted to take photos of the colourful beach huts that dot the area. We first started by trying to take long exposure photos of the incoming tide to give the water a blurry, dreamy like feel. My first attempt at this was probably my best. The clouds were doing their best to block out the sun, so the beach huts never got bathed in the best light, and then when the rain started to fall we decided to forget about the huts and grab a quick bite for breakfast as we had a long day ahead of us. We were in a very artsy neighborhood and the little coffee house made their own pastries, which were fantastic. I had two cinnamon rolls because I am a glutton! Don’t judge me.
We stopped by the little marina at Camp’s Bay where our lesson involved looking for patterns or shapes when composing photos. We were taught to think about leading lines and how the rule of thirds is great to know but also great to break from time to time. Most of my photos here were not ones I’d normally take, but I started to notice things I wouldn’t normally. I did snap a couple I quite like.
From here, we ventured to Simon’s Town. Simon’s Town and Boulders Beach are famous for their African Penguins. Some 2000 odd penguins call this area home, and as much as I wanted a photo of each and every one of them, I decided to cut back and only get around 1500 of them on film. I’ve included some of my favorites below. I especially like the one where they are all lying down in a row. Something I would not have necessarily noticed before learning to look for patterns only hours before. As for the town itself, it is rather quaint. A former hotbed of the South African navy, it still has some naval affiliation amongst its arts and craft shops.
Next up was Cape Point, the Southwesterly most point of Africa. You could take a funicular train up to the top like Kim, or decide to walk up like Peter and I did. There are some outstanding views from up here, and with the sun deciding to play nice, the glare from the ocean (or oceans as you can see the Indian Ocean as well on clear days) caused havoc with my poor photography skills. The clifftops in this area are a good place to spot cormorants and Peter thought this would be a great place to learn about panning and trying to capture an animal in movement. He had use focus lock to fix a point in focus and then follow the bird until we felt comfortable pressing the shutter button. I will say one thing … those birds are quick. I also need more practice. Okay, that’s two things.
After a quick lunch of pizza (I had ostrich and mushroom on mine), we headed towards the actual Cape Point sign (did the tourist thing and took a photo), and worked using faster shutter speeds to freeze the movement of the waves as they splashed against the rocks. Earlier in the day we had opted to use slow speeds to show motion so we had come full circle. Of course while learning all of this, he was also teaching us about how to find the correct exposure, how to read the complicated histograms that your camera will show you, and quick little ways to fix things in camera to try and improve your next shot. All little things I had read about but never put in practice.
We drove around the Cape Reserve hoping to see some of the animals endemic to the region before making a pit stop to see and feed Bonnie and Clyde before heading for the famous Chapman’s Peak Drive. We bypassed Hout Bay as it looked too busy and we wanted, Peter especially, to be in place on Chapman’s Peak Drive for the sunset. We parked up at a roadside turnout and sat down while Peter opened a bottle of red so Kim and I could have a glass. We talked about families, traveling, and a little bit about photography as we all clicked photos of the sun sinking away.
We finally got back to the hotel at around 7 pm, a full 13 hours after we had started. But the 13 hours had gone by very quickly and never once did it feel like a burden or too taxing. The course was wonderful, we learned an incredible amount, but the best part was just getting to hang out with a great teacher and better person. Definitely choose wisely with this course.
We headed to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront (only steps away from our hotel) and to Hildebrand for dinner. Kim decided to have veal marsala while I had a trio of game skewer, which had impala, springbok, and eland on it. A couple glasses of wine later and it was time to say farewell to another busy but productive day.